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Walking up the down escalator : public investment and fiscal stability

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  • Easterly, William
  • Irwin, Timothy
  • Serven, Luis

Abstract

Fiscal adjustment becomes like walking up the down escalator when growth-promoting spending is cut so much as to lower growth and thus the present value of future tax revenues to a degree that more than offsets the improvement in the cash deficit. Although short-term cash flows matter, a preponderant focus on them encourages governments to invest too little. Cash flow targets also encourage governments to shift investment spending off budget, by seeking private investment in public projects-irrespective of its real fiscal or economic benefits. To evade the action of cash flow targets, some have suggested excluding from their scope certain investments (such as those undertaken by public enterprises deemed commercial or financed by multilaterals). These stopgap remedies might sometimes help protect investment, but they do not provide a satisfactory solution to the underlying problem. Governments can more effectively reduce the biases created by the focus on short-term cash flows by developing indicators of the long-term fiscal effects of their decisions, including accounting and economic measures of net worth, and where appropriate including such measures in fiscal targets or even fiscal rules, replacing the exclusive focus on liquidity and debt.

Suggested Citation

  • Easterly, William & Irwin, Timothy & Serven, Luis, 2007. "Walking up the down escalator : public investment and fiscal stability," Policy Research Working Paper Series 4158, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:4158
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Arturo J. Galindo & Ugo Panizza, 2017. "The Cyclicality of International Public Sector Borrowing in Developing Countries: Does the Lender Matter?," IDB Publications (Working Papers) 8559, Inter-American Development Bank.
    2. Era Dabla-Norris & Jim Brumby & Annette Kyobe & Zac Mills & Chris Papageorgiou, 2012. "Investing in public investment: an index of public investment efficiency," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 17(3), pages 235-266, September.
    3. Mogues, Tewodaj & Yu, Bingxin & Fan, Shenggen & Mcbride, Linden, 2012. "The impacts of public investment in and for agriculture: Synthesis of the existing evidence," IFPRI discussion papers 1217, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
    4. Timothy C. Irwin, 2015. "Defining The Government'S Debt And Deficit," Journal of Economic Surveys, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 29(4), pages 711-732, September.
    5. Attinasi, Maria Grazia & Klemm, Alexander, 2016. "The growth impact of discretionary fiscal policy measures," Journal of Macroeconomics, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 265-279.
    6. Bevan, David L., 2010. "Fiscal policy issues for Tanzania," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 36380, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    7. Calderon, Cesar & Serven, Luis, 2010. "Infrastructure in Latin America," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5317, The World Bank.
    8. Vlaicu, Razvan & Verhoeven, Marijn & Grigoli, Francesco & Mills, Zachary, 2014. "Multiyear budgets and fiscal performance: Panel data evidence," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 111(C), pages 79-95.
    9. Chiara Del Bo & Massimo Florio & Silvia Vignetti & Emanuela Sirtori, 2011. "Additionality and regional development: are EU Structural Funds complements or substitutes of national Public Finance?," Working Papers 201101, CSIL Centre for Industrial Studies.
    10. Hans Pitlik, 2010. "Fiscal Governance and Government Investment in Europe since the 1990s," WIFO Working Papers 370, WIFO.
    11. Grigoli, Francesco & Mills, Zachary & Verhoeven, Marijn & Vlaicu, Razvan, 2012. "MTEFs and fiscal performance: panel data evidence," Policy Research Working Paper Series 6186, The World Bank.

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    Keywords

    Public Sector Expenditure Analysis&Management; Public Sector Economics&Finance; Investment and Investment Climate; Economic Stabilization; Fiscal Adjustment;

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